Justice system broken; come back later

Colin Roberts

The American justice system has often been criticized for its many shortcomings, and they are many.

In the international community, the one that does not include oppressive regimes, we have been taken to task for the way we treat our minority communities (for the last two centuries, we just cannot seem to get past a certain way of viewing our neighbors); as well as, how we police, prosecute and incarcerate our citizens.

Even some of the dictatorships like to point at us whenever we get too self-righteous, reminding us that whenever we have lethal drug shortages, we try to speed up executions before the current stock expires, not to mention our ongoing practice of solitary confinement.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let us back up.

The primary problems with the justice system, the reasons it is a broken system, are many. Let us break it down.

The first issue is police practices. I have expressed before my distaste for paramilitary organizations masquerading as law enforcement. There was the Boston bombing, where army units went street by street raiding houses while looking for the suspects.

Sorry, slight correction: they were not army units. They were police counter-terror units, but you would be forgiven for mistaking the two based on their weapons, armored transports and house-breaching tactics.

Then there was Ferguson, where we got to see the full power of the St. Louis riot control divisions, which from a military perspective were awe-inspiring. But we are talking about American citizens here, which some people like to ignore in favor of platitudes about race.

I will say this: go Philadelphia for winning the Super Bowl, but Eagles fans destroyed the city, and you did not see riot-suppression systems on the scale you saw in the town of Ferguson.

What I really want to point out are standard policing practices, which unfairly target at-risk communities and are rarely held accountable for wrongful death, even the in clear-cut criminal negligence situations.

Police practices are overly militarized, are unfairly targeting certain communities and there is no outside accountability, but what comes next?

Well then, you get the court systems. I could go on and on about this, but my educated readers already understand how ridiculously broken the courts are, from local to federal. The main problem is the absurd amount of wrongful convictions we hand out and the fanaticism with which prosecutors pursue convictions, regardless of evidence. But I am moving on in favor of what I really want to talk about: prisons.

Remember me mentioning solitary confinement? You might not know this, but humans are social creatures. Because of this, solitary confinement is considered torture in the international community. But boy howdy, do American prisons love locking people up alone in small rooms.

Now I know some readers will scoff. “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key!” And sure, you can think that, but just like people who laugh at waterboarding, I would encourage you to experience solitary confinement for yourself – let us say just three days as opposed to months like in prison – and then you can form an opinion. Keep in mind that one in 25 people on death row are innocent, with an even higher number for non-death row inmates.

You might say, “Well, one innocent dead for twenty-four brought to justice is the price we must pay,” but again, I would encourage you to talk to the family of the soon-to-be executed and see how they feel about it.

And then there are private prisons. Lord have mercy, nothing points out the problems in America like hearing someone owns stock in a private prison. Do you know how private prisons function? The more prisoners, the more money. Just to fully explain and thus kill the joke for you, private prisons have an incentive to incarcerate, and keep, people in their prisons. You know, to satisfy their shareholders.

And let us quickly run through the easy ones. We have the most incarcerated people in the planet, one of the largest recidivism rates and a job market that punishes those with felonies, which, again, unfairly target at-risk communities.

Full disclaimer: If someone hurt someone I love, I would want the police to shoot them, or the courts to throw the book at them or the warden to lock them up in a small cage until they die. But far too often, America lets passion and feelings dictate our policies instead of justice and mercy. Let us rise above hardened hearts and apathy and address the broken systems that are rotting away this great nation.

Colin Roberts can be reached at  581-2812 or [email protected].